In a letter published today in the UK’s “i” newspaper (part of The Independent), world-renowned celebrities have called for a new approach to conservation, one that respects tribal peoples’ rights.
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood; actors Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, Mark Rylance, and Sinead Cusack; comedian, actor, writer & TV presenter Michael Palin; illustrator Sir Quentin Blake; musician Julian Lennon; human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell; photographer Sebastião Salgado; broadcaster John Simpson; artist Kurt Jackson; and Survival’s President Robin Hanbury-Tenison are among those who have signed.
The full letter reads:
We, the undersigned, are calling for a new approach to conservation, one that respects tribal peoples’ rights, for all of humanity.
Tribal peoples are generally the best conservationists; they have managed their lands sustainably for many generations. Forcibly removing tribal peoples from their land usually results in environmental damage. Such removals are a violation of human rights and should be opposed by conservationists.
The cheapest and quickest way to conserve areas of high biodiversity is to respect tribal peoples’ rights – studies show reduced deforestation and forest fire rates, and greater biodiversity, on tribal land. The world can no longer afford a conservation model that destroys tribal peoples: it damages human diversity as well as the environment.
The letter forms the principles behind a campaign by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, to change a conservation model that is harming tribal peoples around the world.
Baka “Pygmies” in southeast Cameroon face arrests, beatings and torture by wildlife officers who are funded and supported by WWF. Bushmen in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve are being criminalized for hunting to feed their families. And tribal peoples in India are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of tiger conservation.
Survival’s campaign aims to change conservation so that it respects tribal peoples as the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world.